Pros: Relevant, energetic and unapologetically honest about modern theatre. Each sketch was top class and wonderfully creative.
Cons: If you’ve not seen most musicals and don’t know theatre totally inside out, there are jokes you will miss. It’s most certainly aimed at a dedicated, regular theatre audience.
Jest End is divinely satirical with equal parts of vulgarity and genius. This talented team of four deconstructed and poked fun at some of our best loved musicals to a very familiar score and did so with gusto. The awesome foursome did not falter in energy for even a second and gave strong committed performances from start to finish, conjuring roars of laughter continuously. With wigs stuck to whistles and wardrobe malfunctions, this concoction of joy wasn’t without it’s hiccups but the production took this in its stride and created comedy from what any normal show might call a catastrophe.
With much relevant content including the closing of Jersey Boys and the recent reveal of Hamilton’s debut on the West End, the material was fresh and topical but still engaging and original in its delivery. Well-known theatre names are not forgotten with jokes referencing Cameron Mackintosh, John Barrowman and Lin Miranda Manuel. Jokes teetered the line of acceptability, gaining a ruckus of laughs that as an audience we tried to stifle and even forced a snort from the front left. That’s the beauty of Jest End. Though most quips are smart and immaculately timed, some of the funniest moments come from crude language and sordid remarks. Jest End is unapologetic in its approach; it is theatre criticising theatre. It’s the very base love some of us have for theatre that allows us to chuckle at awful commercial choices, belly laugh at the overused clichés and shake our heads at why Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman were EVER cast in a movie-musical. This complete passion that audience and cast share alike is what really makes the show special.
The set is beautifully reminiscent of the background of a stand-up gig, setting the tone for the piece. A mock-up of a tube station hosts the variety performances and sketches and the logo of Jest End stands proud on both the wall and deck of the stage and is simple yet effective. Lighting gives dramatic effect and heightens comedic moments as it is weaved into the act as a crucial element of the plot. However, it really is the costumes and props that are the most essential in shaping the show and letting the audience know what well loved musical might be the next target. Red blazers and greased back quiffs for Jersey Boys, period tailcoats and tights for Hamilton, and onesies and faux fur deliver Lion King. These key visual pieces are expertly picked to convey the shabby Jest End style.
From the struggles of underpaid, well trained actors to the money oriented choices of producers, this show throws it all out there and makes fun of it all. Gossip, flamboyance, bare bottoms and oodles of talent, Jest End really covers everything. It provides side splitting laughter from start to finish. If you love theatre, you’ll love this – guaranteed.
Director: Garry Lake
Choreography: Rebecca Howell
Musical Director: James Taylor
Box Office: 020 7928 0060
Booking Link: http://www.waterlooeast.co.uk/jest%20end.html
Booking Until: Sunday 18 December